The Social Side, Part 3: Where Does Your Business Fit Online?

Last week, we discussed goal building– the essential first step for any business before stepping into social media. Now that you have a goal and have also defined a measurement of success, your next step will be finding your place online− where to best focus your time and budget.

Should it be Twitter or Facebook? Or neither. Contrary to popular belief, not every business needs to have a social media presence. Often, we find that a client’s budget and our time would be far better spent on search engine optimization– ranking in Google and other search engines for targeted terms. And then there are businesses who shouldn’t be focusing on SEO at all, businesses who would be far better served by investing in a Facebook page.

To determine where your marketing dollars are best spent, take some time to research existing conversations and search patterns. You’ll find that when it comes to choosing between Facebook, Twitter or SEO, there is very little guess work.

1. First, go to Type in your product or service. Leave your brand name out of your search. For example, if you own Mike’s Bike Shop, search the terms “bike repair” or “new bike”. Feel free to check “Mike’s Bike Shop,” but, chances are, you’ll find little mention of your small business. What you’re trying to measure is overall chatter on Twitter about your product or service.

Clearly, you’ll find Mike’s Bike Shop has plenty of business prospects on Twitter. Hint: If your business is geographically limited, use to search Twitter chatter and filter by zip code. Websites like these monitor conversations, making it possible for you to listen and respond to the needs of your potential customers. If you find there are conversations or Tweets worthy of a response from your business, there’s a good chance you should be on Twitter.

2. Next, pay a visit to Facebook. On Facebook, brands can’t reply to their customers like they can on Twitter. Instead, businesses on Facebook are restricted to their own pages. This leaves brands cornered and waiting for fans to seek them out. There are more aggressive tactics, like contests or promotions, that can be used on Facebook, but these take extra time and dollars to launch.

Facebook is a given for businesses who have a) a loyal customer base or b) a steady and loyal visitor base to their websites. With both, you’ll earn fans naturally. See the Jeni’s Ice Cream and HOMAGE Facebook pages for fantastic local examples.

3. Then, take a minute to visit If a customer were to ask a question that would lead to your product or service, what would it be? Type that question into YouTube and see if any relevant videos surface. If not, there is a need for your expert opinion. Get a video camera and get to work. If there are no, or very few, existing videos targeting your terms, your videos should show up on the first results page within 24 hours of posting.

4. Now, take a minute to use the Google Keyword Tool. Find out how many people are looking for your product or service per month by typing in a keyword associated with it.

Take a look at the global monthly search volume for your keyword and related keywords. In the above screen shot, we can see the term “Columbus bike shop” is searched 1,900 times per month. Compare that search volume with the social media chatter you found.

5. Finally, how many hours do you have each day to manage your online activities? (Answer this question honestly.) Depending on what the aforementioned research found, you’ll need the following minimum amounts of time per day for each social media tool or search. Facebook: 30 minutes to one hour. Twitter: two hours per day. SEO: one to four hours per day, depending on how aggressive your goals are.

You’ve done your research, so now you can dive in, right? Not so fast. The most common mistake businesses large and small make in social media is creating accounts, profiles or pages without a relevant message. There really is no way to escape this piece of the puzzle. You have to bring an interesting message to the party or you may as well stay home.

So how can you be interesting? And where can you put all that interesting content? On a blog, of course.

Don’t miss the rest of “The Social Side.” Upcoming posts include:

  • • Blogging: The essential ingredient for every small business
  • • How much you should spend on a Tweet: Your social media budget
  • • How to get and keep fans: Building your social fan base